The NBA’s Rookie of the Year race in 2017-18 is sure to be better than last season. The Milwaukee Bucks’ Malcolm Brogdon edged out Dario Saric and Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers, but Brogdon’s season wasn’t awe-inspiring. He averaged a modest 10.2 points, 2.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists in only 26.4 minutes per game.
Usually the winner of the Rookie of the Year award needs a very large role and impressive statistics. That should be the case again in 2017-18.
A strong 2017 draft class, along with 2016 draftee Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers, should make it a good year for rookies. Many of the first-year players should play significant roles for their teams right away.
Who is the best bet to win Rookie of the Year? We’ll break down some of the most likely candidates, discuss some other non-favorites who can win and then offer some betting predictions and picks advice. We also give the best betting odds available from the US sportsbooks for each rookie we preview.
Rookie of the Year Favorites
Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers (Best Odds at +265 with 5Dimes)
Ball is going to dazzle Lakers fans from Day 1. He has a gift for passing that very few players possess, and he’s easily the favorite to lead all rookies in assists. His Los Angeles teammates will love playing with him.
The rest of his game may take a bit more time to adjust to the NBA. He has the physical tools to be a good defender, but he doesn’t put in consistent effort. His lack of diversity as a scorer makes him a bit of a question mark in that area. Will his funky shooting form and unimpressive first step work against the smarter, more athletic defenders of the NBA?
Ball is definitely going to contend for the Rookie of the Year award, as he’s got a great basketball IQ and he’ll get the minutes necessary to put up solid numbers. But I’m not sure if his game is quite polished enough to be seen as this much of a favorite. On a team with Brook Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle, the Lakers won’t look to him for many points.
Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas Mavericks (+380 at MyBookie)
The pieces are in place for the Mavericks to make Smith their franchise player. Dallas has very few young prospects with star potential, but Smith definitely has it. He’s a score-first point guard in the mould of the Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard, but with even more explosiveness.
In Smith’s rookie year, he should put big numbers for the Mavs. The only main guys who should take away touches from him are Harrison Barnes, Wesley Matthews and Seth Curry, but none of those dominate the ball. Dallas is going to rely on its rookie floor general for a lot of points and assists — expect a stat line around 18 points and six assists per game.
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers (+500 at Bovada)
If Simmons were healthy last season, he probably would’ve been the Rookie of the Year. But this season, he’ll have a stronger rookie class to compete against.
That said, the versatile 21-year-old still has a great shot to win the award. The 76ers will probably play him as a power forward on defense but a point guard on offense. This will likely result in plenty of points, rebounds and assists. Simmons has a unique combination of size, athleticism and skill, especially handling the ball.
One concern for Simmons with regards to his Rookie of the Year chances is his health. The 76ers could be a little bit cautious with him, since he’s coming off a significant foot injury.
Best Rookie of the Year Dark Horse Bets
Jackson is a great prospect, but his best skills are on defense. The former Kansas standout is a raw, explosive athlete who will mainly contribute on the less glamorous end of the floor early in his career. His stats, especially in the point and assist categories, may not be very impressive.
However, the Suns should be a fast-paced team. If Jackson can find his niche as a transition finisher and he works a bit more on his shaky jumper, he could end up producing enough on offense to go with his impressive defense and earn some Rookie of the Year love. He also seems destined for a consistent rotation role in his first year.
John Collins, Atlanta Hawks (+3300 at Bovada)
Collins was a great selection for the Hawks at the No. 19 pick in this summer’s draft. He’s an explosive power forward who rebounds well and has the versatility to defend all types of players and block shots. In the NBA Summer League, he was one of the top rookies, averaging 15.4 points and 9.2 rebounds in just 23.1 minutes per game.
The Hawks lost former starting power forward Paul Millsap in free agency this summer, and there’s no clear replacement for him. Collins has a great chance to start, and he’ll get huge minutes even if it’s someone like Mike Muscala or Ersan Ilyasova who gets a spot in the opening lineup.
Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls (+8500 at 5Dimes)
Like Collins, Markkanen is a power forward with a decent chance at starting in his rookie year. His chances do go down significantly, though, if the Bulls decide to keep Nikola Mirotic, a restricted free agent who somehow has gone unsigned.
Even if Mirotic does stick around, Markkanen will have a role with the Bulls. As the Finnish youngster showed in the EuroBasket tournament this month, he’s more than just a standstill shooting big man. He can put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim or pull up for a jumper, too.
Since the Bulls will likely tank this season, Markkanen’s minutes could balloon after the All-Star break. Chicago will do everything it can to develop its young talent while keeping itself in position for a high draft pick next summer.
Our Preview’s NBA Rookie of the Year Picks & Betting Prediction Verdict
- Smith (best at +380 with MyBookie) is this preview’s choice to win Rookie of the Year outright, so he is naturally the best betting pick here. He has the right combination of talent, minutes and opportunity to have the ball in his hands that no one else has.
- Markkanen (+8500 at 5Dimes) has great odds given his skill set and likely role with the Bulls. As the No. 7 overall pick in the draft and one of the more NBA-ready players in the class, he has an outside shot at putting up something like 15 points and six rebounds per game and swooping in for the hardware.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.